You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop by John Scalzi – Book Review

You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing by John Scalzi
Published by Subterranean Press

If you want to learn how to craft a sentence, You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop (henceforth known as You’re Not Fooling Anyone) is not the writing guide you’re looking for. If, however, you want to know what life is like as a full-time professional writer, and how to actually accomplish such a life, You’re Not Fooling Anyone is a great guide.

The essays in You’re Not Fooling Anyone are culled from Scalzi’s popular blog Whatever. Scalzi is a well-known author of science fiction, but he writes on Whatever about a broad range of topics.  He has a tendency to not categorize his posts in any way, so compiling so many of his pieces on writing into one place is very helpful, because if you didn’t know exactly what you were looking for you might not find them otherwise. There is some repetition occasionally between essays, but that is to be expected as they were written to stand alone and, frankly, sometimes the same question comes up more than once.

Perhaps the most interesting and refreshing thing about You’re Not Fooling Anyone is Scalzi’s willingness to detail what he makes (well, made, this book is nearly six years old and many of the essays even older, and in the meantime he has become an increasingly prominent and – theoretically – well-paid novelist) and how he cobbles together a living from his writing. Many readers have the idea that novelists have the ability to work solely on their fiction, but for most that is not true, unless they have a partner who basically makes enough for their whole family. Most authors have to keep a day job of one kind or another, but for Scalzi that day job is freelance writing, including ad copy. Scalzi encourages would-be writers not to be romantic about the writing life. Certainly there may be some projects with which you would not want to be associated, but by and large, if it will allow you to pay the bills and you can do it, Scalzi advises that you do so. That is, if you want to be a working writer and actually pay the bills.  There is practical advice on the tools to help you find paying freelance gigs (although, again, they may be slightly dated), and the timeless advice about making sure you actually get paid for said writing.

You’re Not Fooling Anyone would be a worthwhile book for writers just for the practical and forthright information and advice, but when combined with Scalzi’s distinctive and entertaining voice, it becomes a must-read.

Buy this book from:
Somewhere online, it seems to only be available as an ebook at the moment.

Source: Personal copy.

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2 comments to You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop by John Scalzi – Book Review

  • I bought this book awhile back and read a few essays, but never got around to finishing it. But from what I remember, I liked many of the things you did, especially his frank talk about what it means to really have a writing life. I think there’s an idea that writing is this romantic job, but in the end it, like every other job, has parts that are unpleasant or difficult or boring. A lot of people don’t know that (or choose to ignore it!).

  • Sounds like a good read, thanks for the overview and review. I would love to be able to work full time as a writer and have read a couple of books on the topic. Unfortunately it doesn’t fall into your lap….you have to hustle to make it happen.

    I like that you said this book won’t teach you how to craft sentences but how to actually be a writer. Means the newbies will know to stay away from it.